|Disclaimer: All Roswell characters are the property of UPN .|
Summary: Max returns from a very long journey to find that everything and everyone has changed.
Author's Note: Flashbacks are in italics. Feedback always appreciated!
|Where to even begin?|
Max kicked a stone that was in his path as he walked along the side of the road. He had his hands shoved deep into his pockets and his head was bent downward. He wasn't sure how much time had passed as he'd regained his strength. He knew the sun had set and risen at least once, but he had no guarantee that he hadn't slept through that cycle many more times. When he'd finally awaken for good, he'd been incredibly thirsty, thirsty to the point of insanity. Luckily, there had been a pond nearby and he'd had enough strength to use his powers to clear the water of impurities before he'd put it into his recovering body. Gulping the water had been a bad idea - Max had been rudely reintroduced to the very human concept of regurgitation.
But now he was literally on the road, looking for clues as to where he was, what year it was, anything that would explain his current situation.
When he'd left, he'd taken clothes that never really went out of style - a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. He figured that was safe - the worst that could happen was he'd reappear wearing the wrong shade of denim. Anyone he ran across might just think he was a fashion misfit instead of absent for God knows how many years.
Beneath his fingers, Max felt the wad of money he'd stashed in his pocket before his departure. He congratulated himself on thinking of these things and it suddenly occurred to him that his diligent planning meant that all of those promises he'd made he'd really meant - he'd had every intention of returning.
But was everyone he cared about still here?
Max felt a slight discomfort in his stomach, something that felt almost foreign to him. He gazed to the horizon and realized what the feeling was - he was hungry. Involuntarily, his mouth watered as he remembered all of those wonderful foods he'd loved here on earth - all of them soaked in Tabasco, of course. Tabasco. He suddenly flashed on Isabel and Michael and his gut clenched.
His shoulders heaved with a little sigh and the unusual intake of air caused him to expel another wad of phlegm. He watched the greenish fluid smack the pavement and gave a little groan. How long was this going to happen? How long until he had flushed all remnants of that other world out of his body?
That other world…
He gave a shake of his head and forced himself to continue walking. Just like he couldn't allow himself to deal with the circumstances of Michael and Isabel, he couldn't let himself dwell on what had happened on that other world. Not now. Not yet. The time would come.
The sun was starting to slowly sink ahead of Max. At least he had some confirmation that he was still moving west. As long as he'd landed somewhere in the continental US, he was at least moving in the right direction…unless he was already west of New Mexico. No, from the amount of foliage around him, he doubted that. Unless he was very north of New Mexico and was actually in the Pacific Northwest.
Panic twisted in Max's stomach for the first time. He really didn't know where he was. He didn't even know what continent he was on. He was wandering in some arbitrary westerly direction. His belly was empty, his limbs still a little weak.
He was in trouble.
Max had forgotten the bodily reaction to panic. The sudden rush of blood to his head made him suddenly woozy and he had to stop walking and sit down. He hung his head and waited for the feeling to pass.
A few moments later he was back on his feet and walking again.
He hadn't walked more than a few minutes when he heard a vehicle approaching from the rear. His first instinct was to panic and run for shelter, but he pushed that aside and turned to watch the approaching car.
It was a pick up, and it didn't look so different from the trucks that had been running the roads when he'd left. As the truck pulled to a stop, he glanced at the license plate - Ohio. The renewal sticker read "Expires on Designated Date 07".
07. What - 07? 2007? 2107? He felt a sudden uncertainty about the bills in his pocket. Anyone showing up in 2007 with a wad of bills dated before 2001 would not be conspicuous, but someone showing up in 2107 with a wad of bills dated before 2001 definitely would be.
Okay, so at least two questions had been answered for sure - he was in the US. He was in Ohio. What year was still a mystery.
The driver dropped the passenger-side window and leaned over in the seat to regard Max. He was a middle-aged man, scruffy around the edges, but he had a welcoming smile that made Max smile in return.
"How ya doin?" the driver asked.
When Max tried to speak, his voice cracked and a hoarse croak came from his throat. He cleared his throat and prayed that another alien phlegm ball wasn't about to be produced. "Great," he finally managed, his voice throaty but discernable.
"Need a ride?" the driver offered.
Max nodded and kept smiling. If he were any other normal human, wandering in the middle of nowhere with no help in sight, he'd have been insane to accept a ride from this man. But he wasn't human, not entirely.
The driver pushed open the door and Max climbed into the passenger seat and they were on their way. They exchanged names - the driver's name was Hal Green and he owned a sheep farm - and chatted neighborly for a few minutes. Then silence filled the cab of the truck for a long time.
Finally, Hal spoke. "Did your car break down?"
Max stiffened. He'd walked for miles. There was no car left along the side of the road. He had no excuse for his wandering. "Um, no."
Hal glanced at him. "No? You walking just cuz you like to walk?"
Max gave a little laugh, then stiffened in anticipation when the laugh produced a cough. He relaxed when he realized he was phlegm-free. "Sorta. Just trying to get home."
"Home?" Hal glanced at the road, then back at him. "Where's home?"
Hal's blue eyes widened. "New Mexico! Sweet Mother of God, you're lost, boy!" He gave a crackly laugh that Max recognized as the kind of noise that life-time smokers made. "Where's your stuff?"
Stuff. Well, he hadn't thought about that when he'd been making all of those preparations so many years ago, had he? Of course, he also hadn't planned on being deposited 3500 miles from home, either. He had no backpack, no bedroll. Crap - he didn't even have a coat.
"I lost it," he said lamely.
Hal raised an eyebrow. "Lost it?"
Max nodded. "Robbed."
Hal let out a disgusted gasp. "Damn kids these days. Did they hurt you?"
Max shook his head.
"Bastards. They'll get theirs some day, I tell ya." The sun finally disappeared over the horizon and Hal flipped on the lights to the truck. "Listen, kid. You look like shit."
Max looked at him silently.
"I mean, you look tired and hungry and I'll bet you could use a nice hot shower, huh?"
Max gave a little shrug of agreement.
Hal gave him a smile. "Want to come home with me? My wife - Martha - makes a wonderful pot roast and she just loves company. If we're lucky, she made one of her famous apple pies today, too. I can put you up for the night, give you a decent place to sleep."
Max's mouth watered and he realized he was hungry to the point of nausea. He nodded at Hal and smiled. "I'd love that. If you don't mind?"
Hal wave him off with a hand. "All in the name of good karma, kid." Then he smiled and drove Max to his farm.
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